Glenelg Country Senior Jalen Gabbidon talks about the Dragons' victory over Chapelgate on Nov. 22 in the season opener for both teams. (Brent Kennedy / BSMG)
Facing its first gut-check moment of the season, Glenelg Country delivered an emphatic statement on Tuesday night in its season opener on the road against Chapelgate.
The Dragons put together a 20-3 run in the early stages of the fourth quarter, breaking open what had been a two-point game, to pull away for an eventual 65-49 victory over the Yellowjackets in the annual Route 40 Classic between the two Howard County rivals.
"There might have been a little bit of rust, we've had some preseason shootouts and all that, but I think this is the first time we had to put it all together and it took us a little bit to get it going," said Glenelg Country senior Jalen Gabbidon, who finished with a game-high 18 points. "But by the fourth quarter, we definitely started getting it going and hopefully we can keep it moving on to the next game."
During the game-clinching run, Glenelg Country (1-0) saw Gabbidon and Isaiah Burnett (17 points) combine for 11-straight points between the two of them on a mix of lay-ups, foul shots and threes.
"I think it's just a matter of trust. He trusts me with the ball and I trust him with the ball, and we know each others games really well," said Gabbidon, who is in his first year with the team after transferring in from Harrisburg Academy. "When I'm driving, I know he's in the corner or when he's driving, he knows where I am. That chemistry that we built up over the last few months really came out this game."
While the fourth quarter belonged to the Dragons, Chapelgate (0-1) had done an outstanding job over the first three periods of hanging around. Despite giving up size at nearly every position, the Yellowjackets scrapped defensively and attacked the rim on offense to get Glenelg Country in foul trouble and keep the game close.
It was a seven-point game at the half in favor of the Dragons, 22-15, and a four-point spread after three quarters. Then, following a foul shot by the Yellowjackets' Brandon Wise with 7:42 left in the game, Chapelgate cut its deficit to two, 38-36.
"Diving on the floor, getting it into the post and crashing the boards … that's how we like to play and that's how we kept ourselves in the game," Chapelgate coach Frick Frierson said. "We were a little worried coming out of the half whether the guys would be satisfied with how we played in the first half, but they weren't. Glenelg (Country) is going to be a really, really good team and everybody knows that, but I thought our guys hung tough and put us in a really good position going into that fourth quarter."
But just as it looked like the Yellowjackets might grab their first lead of the contest, Glenelg Country found another gear. And, according to Burnett, it starts on the defensive end of the floor.
"That's what we really stress in practice, we work on defense a lot," Burnett said. "If you can stop the ball, it gives your team more possessions and more shots … so defense for us is the key."
Glenelg Country held Chapelgate to just two field goals in the entire fourth quarter.
Aside from Gabbidon and Burnett, the Dragons also got strong overall games from Caidon Owen (7 points), Anthony Longpre (6 points, 7 rebounds) and CJ Wilson (6 points). It was a three from Owen as time expired in the first half that helped stake Glenelg Country to its seven-point advantage at the break.
On the other side, Chapelgate had a balanced attack that was led by Jalen Morant (11 points), Jason Murphy (9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Montaz McCray (8 points).